Since 1857, the woolen mill located in York Mills has undergone several name changes. It was originally started by George Lister and was known as York Woolen Mills. Later, it was renamed Little’s Woolen Mills when Roy Little acquired it in the 1890s. In 1916, the business was purchased by Mathew Briggs and Howard Little, and it has been known as Briggs & Little Woolen Mills Ltd. ever since.
Ownership of the mill changed hands multiple times over the years, with Russell Briggs inheriting half of the business from his father, and then selling his share to a lifelong employee, Ward Little. Ward Little and Howard Little ran the mill together until 1954, when Roy Little took over his father’s shares. Roy and Ward ran the mill as partners until 1978 when Ward sold his shares to his grandson, John Thompson, and Roy sold half of his shares to his son, John Little. John Thompson and John Little became partners in 1984, and in 2014, Mike Little purchased 50% of the company’s shares when John Thompson retired.
Currently, Mike Little is running the mill, with his wife Leah taking over John’s responsibilities in the office. The company has been in operation for 165 years and celebrated 100 years of the “Little” bloodline in 2016. There are currently two generations of the Little family employed at the mill, with Mike’s eldest son John-Michael and youngest son Carl on staff.
Historical facts about Briggs & Little
- It has been re-built each time after 4 fires. The most recent being in 1994.
- The first colours other than white, grey, and black were introduced in the 1940’s and those included Scarlet, Royal Blue, and Paddy Green.
- Partially powered by water until 1994.
- Owned and operated by a descendant of Howard Little for over 100 years.
- Ward Little worked at this mill for over 60 years.
- John A. Little worked in the office for 50 years.
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